Chesterton Tribune



Guest Commentary: Former lifeguard weighs in against beach conference center plan

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Guest Commentary

By Darcey B Wade

I am opposed to the proposed new banquet center at Indiana Dunes Sate park, for many reasons.

Were there any environmental studies done? Why was this sweetheart deal with politically connected business people kept secret? (Oh wait, the DNR back in April stated that they did not want public input! Amazing, that fact.)

What about parking for events there? Where will the handicapped park to enjoy a beach view? What about congestion on St. Rd. 49? What about the losses to local businesses, including the existing banquet centers? We currently have two upscale centers, The Waterbird and The Spa, plus many other venues that can hold weddings and parties, including the veterans organizations and local churches. How much business will they lose?

How much will other local business lose when people only come for the state park events and bypass our town? How about the dangers to the migratory birds and new lighting to prevent night sky viewing? Any environmental studies done on that?

My most vehement objections relate to the sale of alcohol at the new proposed building (and within 100 feet of the said building), alcohol and the Lake Michigan do not mix. I know that first hand from many nights spent at Dune Acres beach parties. Crazy stuff, coast guard rescues, rescues from locals who kept their own boats right on the beach.

I was a lifeguard at Indiana Dunes State Park in 1971/72.

One summer I watched as other guards tried to save the life of a 10 year old girl who later died. Her parents said she was an experienced swimmer, but she had gum in her mouth and the waves were heavy. The beach probably should have been closed that day, the waves were heavy and five people were pulled out, four lived. People often stroll down to Porter beach or far away from guarded areas to swim when the beach is closed. Anyone who reads a paper knows that people die every year in Lake Michigan, and that doesn’t always even involve alcohol. Lake Michigan can be dangerous even on calm days. Just three weekends ago four teenage boys had to be rescued at Porter Beach. I live near Waverly Rd., which leads to that beach, and often hear the emergency sirens screaming down there trying to save people. It is heartbreaking.

Add in alcohol and it is a disaster waiting to happen. When a tipsy wedding guest decides it would fun to take a dip in the lake who knows what could happen. Guests eating out there after the events and weddings and deciding to swim, what will happen? When the lifeguards are off duty and have left, who will patrol the beach? What if the waves are heavy and a drunk person is not aware of the danger? I have not yet heard of the PPLLC owners promising patrols, or signing waivers to take responsibility if someone drowns. And after hours are the first responders in Porter and Chesterton fully staffed and ready to roll with the right equipment to save a drowning victim? If someone drowns and their family decides to sue the state park, or DNR - who will be responsible?

Have you heard about the new fad that brides have of “trashing the dress” after a wedding? They step in creeks, small lakes, and if this building is built they will have the opportunity to step into a very big lake. Even if the waters are calm, the combination of heavy dresses and water could mean dead brides. The thought horrifies me. Alcohol was banned from the beach for a reason and that was during regular beach hours. I can only imagine the problems caused by late night revelers who’ve had a few drinks and decide to enter that dangerous lake.

Did the PPLLC even take these things into consideration, or is this why it was kept secret? This evil dangerous building should never be built. I am shocked that a member of the Tourism board is also a member of the PPLLC, there is not just a conflict of interest, but how can a person who cares about NWI tourism even consider such a new building that will cause so much harm? Oh, sorry I know the answer to that - greed and profits. The rent of $18,000 would buy a nice 4 bedroom house around here, this massive building is so much bigger. And the 2 percent they will pay after two years will all stay down state rather than in the local economy. And not having to pay any property taxes that would stay in the local area - what a great deal for them.

This must be stopped.

I hope to see a big crowd asking the many questions that need answers this Thursday at 5 p.m. at the Memorial Opera house in Valparaiso.

(And why was that meeting moved so far south, even that seems suspicious.)



Posted 7/13/2015




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